The Klein Karoo’s Spectacular Wilderness

CH Travel - Klein Karoo Landscape from Above


Of Our South Africa Travel Adventure

Only a stone’s throw away from Cape Town, you can immerse in untouched and fascinating landscapes. Like the gorgeous coastal areas and the large mountain ranges of the Western Cape with its many nature and game reserves.

And this is where we started our journey of discovering great nature and wilderness – with the Klein Karoo, also called the Little Karoo.

What is the Klein Karoo? It is a semi-desert valley stretching about 300 kilometers from Montague to the East, squeezed between the Swartberg and Langeberg Mountains. Magnificent folded sandstone mountains from the prehistoric Gondwana period and 3.200 different plants make up its beauty.

We spent a week in the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, where we were the only visitors in the entire reserve and had the beautiful wilderness to ourselves. Here we share many details about this wilderness, experiences you can have – and great pictures.

The Route to the Klein Karoo

Route to the Klein Karoo

Coming from Cape Town, the easiest way is to take the N1 to Paarl and then continue via Rawsonville to Worcester. This is where you leave the highway and head on the N60 towards Robertson.

Driving through this landscape is relaxing, so hilly and green and along the way, you can buy local products, like fruits and wines.

The villages are quaint and laid-back. Like Robertson with its mix of wineries, trendy shops, and restaurants. Or the very idyllic Montague, a green oasis with scenic vineyards.

Montague is also the western starting point of the Klein Karoo. From there, we took the N62 via Scheepersrus in the direction of Goedeloof, where we made our way into the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. 

PS: Roberston, Montague, and Nuy is another great wine region. More about that in one of our next episodes about the fantastic wine routes in South Africa.

CH Travel - Klein Karoo On the Way Fruit Sales
CH Travel - Klein Karoo Entrance Sanbona
The Klein Karoo geology dates 550 million years back in time… 

The locals often refer to “Gondwana” when they talk about the Klein Karoo’s bizarre mountains. Because its red sandstone originates from the (Neoproterozoic) Gondwana age, 550 million years ago.

Gondwana was once the supercontinent, with Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and India as a single landmass. When it finally split, great mountains were created, including those of the Klein Karoo.

Klein Karoo: Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

CH Travel - Sanbona Wildlife Reserve Map

Sanbona is a private Wildlife Reserve that covers 58.000 hectares of land. It perfectly represents the Klein Karoo landscape, with its flat southern part and a mountainous northern area.

The southern part is covered with fields of fynbos, proteas, and more. The wildlife ranges from baboons, foxes, jackals to quaggas and all sorts of boks, also the pretty kudus and elands.

On the other side, the northern part impresses with its bizarrely folded red-orange mountains, whose geology dates back to the Gondwana age. Hundreds of different succulents, bushes, and (wild)flowers fill the cliff cracks, which look like a green waterfall down the walls. Together with valleys and rivers, this makes up a spectacular landscape.

Animal-wise, we came across giraffes and elephants that like to hang out at their favorite spots on the Brakrivier riverbed and hippos at Bellair dam lake. Some animals were apparently surprised to see human beings around – like the giraffe below ;-)

Besides, the area is a heaven for succulent lovers like me because you find 50% of the world’s succulents species in the Klein Karoo. Not to forget about overall 3.200 different plants types calling it their home. There is actually an awesome book that illustrates the Plants of the Klein Karoo. Quite handy, if you’d like to look them up.

CH Travel Klein Karoo Game Drive with Israel
CH Travel - Klein Karoo On the Game Drive
CH Travel - Klein Karoo Surprised Giraffe
CH Travel Klein Karoo Elefants in Blakrivier Riverbed
CH Travel - Klein Karoo Eltje Wintercoat

Some easy-to-drive gravel roads run through Sanbona and the entire Klein Karoo, like towards Aynsberg, Warmwaterberg, and Ladismith. So, you do not need a 4×4 vehicle to arrive there, but if you self-drive through the Klein Karoo, on its many 4×4 routes.

Also, bear in mind it is a semi-desert environment, and early mornings and evenings are freezing. Luckily, we had our European Alps’ proved winter jackets with us (and beanies and gloves), which saved us from the cold. Vice versa, it gets pretty hot in the sun during the day.

This is how I imagine my perfect garden, bizarre rocks populated with succulents of all kinds – a reflection of the Klein Karoo.

Taken by the incredible prehistoric Gondwana landscape - and lost in taking pictures.

Klein Karoo: Staying@White Lion Lodge

CH Travel - Klein Karoo White Lion Lodge from Above

We decided to stay at a quiet place with limited guests and in the middle of nature – and the White Lion Lodge in the southern part of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve was the perfect choice for that.

Ultimately, it turned out that we were the only guests in the lodge and the entire reserve.

What a luxury to have the extraordinary lodge and its fantastic team all to ourselves. Great food and relaxed atmosphere included! Which also allowed us to drive around all day(s) in unspoiled and deserted nature, just following our own schedule.

While at night, wow, we were surprised by beautiful milky ways – and on the day we left with a stunning rainbow!
CH Travel - Klein Karoo Milky Way over White Lion Lodge
CH Travel - Klein Karoo Rainbow
What we noticed 

People in the countryside have a great team spirit. They maneuver together through the Covid crisis with hardly any visitors for more than a year.

Employers in hospitality try to keep every job and are grateful for every guest supporting businesses and livelihoods.

Phrase of this Episode:

Baie dankie! - Thank you very much!
CH Travel - Translator select language
Local Vocal

We hope you enjoyed this tour!

The Klein Karoo is also the starting point of our South African discoveries. In our next episode, we are heading to the captivating Cederberg Mountains.

Next up: Episode 6 – 8 Great Things to Do in the Cederberg Mountains

Interested in more of our South Africa Photos? Then visit our photography website.

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